Disclaimer: The post and healthy meals were sponsored by Harris Teeter. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Now that I’m grocery shopping for a family of four, I’m becoming incredibly more conscious of the amount of money that I’m spending at the grocery store. To help us stay on track and not become wasteful, my husband and I prefer to meal plan. However, our meal planning usually consists of me going to the grocery store, seeing what looks fresh, and purchasing items for the week that go well together. We really enjoy fresh ingredients, especially since the healthy meals we make are simple. As long as you have good, quality ingredients, you don’t need a lot of them to make food taste good.
We hardly ever eat out since we enjoy cooking and eating homemade meals. We’ve always preferred healthy meals, but recently we’ve turned that into high gear, especially with our focus on fitness and healthy living. As part of our healthy lifestyle, we tend to enjoy breakfasts that are filling and last us throughout the morning, lunches that are light yet keep us energized, and dinners that are balanced. For the most part, our meals are simple and flavorful.
Recently, I was presented with a challenge: Go grocery shopping at Harris Teeter, shop for two days of healthy meals … and only spend $20. My first reaction was, “What?! How in the world am I only going to spend $20 for two days’ worth of food?” But, I’m always up for a challenge. The next thing I knew, I found myself at my local Harris Teeter with my daughter perusing the isles brainstorming ways to create two days of healthy meals for $20 or less. Thankfully, I have meal planning experience.
5 Tips for Meal Planning
1.) Know The Types of Recipes You Need
How many meals do you need to make? What kind of cooking do you need to do (e.g., grill, use a slow cooker, etc.)? For this challenge, I knew I needed breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes for two days.
2.) Research Recipes
So many people find themselves in a cooking rut. As in, they cook the same dishes day after day, week after week. To avoid this rut, save recipes on Pinterest, research via Google, create a recipe binder full of recipes pulled from cooking magazines, flip through cookbooks and find simple recipes that you will love, use the grocery store’s website for recipe ideas, etc. There are so many resources available that can help you change up your cooking routine.
3.) Create a Calendar
Whether you print a calendar, use a calendar from the store, or use a Google calendar, make sure you find recipes that you love and add them to different days of the upcoming week. If you use a printed calendar, post the calendar somewhere in your home so that family members can manage their expectations. Plus, you can avoid the question, “What’s for dinner?”
4.) Keep a Stocked Pantry
I strongly believe in having a stocked pantry. When we don’t have time to go to the store or schedules become a bit out of routine, it’s always nice to turn to the pantry and refrigerator to whip up a tasty dinner. Here are 10 of my favorite kitchen staples.
5.) Reduce Food Waste
Food doesn’t have to be complicated to taste good. With just a few ingredients, you can have meals that taste amazing. I shy away from ingredient lists that are long and/or include ingredients that I will never use again (unless I make the same recipe). To me, those recipes are wasteful. If you use good, quality ingredients, the few that you do use in your recipe will make the end result a showstopper. Also, be sure to create a meal plan that uses the ingredients you do purchase in a variety of ways.
Two Days of Healthy Meals for Under $20
Even though I have my meal planning system down, my daughter and I walked into Harris Teeter, were greeted by so many friendly Harris Teeter employees, and I became a bit nervous. Could I really make two days’ worth of meals for $20, especially when tasked with having to purchase as many items as possible from the Harris Teeter Organics line?
Before I thought of any recipes, I decided to walk through the store and see what types of ingredients were available in the Organics line. My nerves were calmed slightly when I quickly realized that the Organics line has items on every isle. There are 351 Harris Teeter Organics products available in their stores. The products are non-GMO, free from pesticides, and free from artificial preservatives. What calmed my nerves even more was that many of the items were priced below conventional, non-organics brands.
Based on the recipes that I typically prepare as part of our healthy lifestyle, I grabbed a few items in the produce aisle, added chicken to our cart, and made sure to pick out a few additional items that tend to be a pantry staple in our home. With trepidation, I headed to the checkout lane and immediately warned (and apologized) to the man who was scanning my ingredients. I told him that I had to keep the total under $20.
After scanning a few items, removing a few items, and decreasing the amount of some of the items, I finally arrived at a total that made me proud: $19.20. I did it. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, especially when Harris Teeter offers affordable, trustworthy, and less complicated solutions to purchasing organic foods.
Why did I choose these items?
- Arugula — This item is one of my favorite greens for a salad. The leaves are full of spicy flavor that packs a punch.
- Avocados — This item is so versatile. I knew that I could make a variety of dishes with this one ingredient. From sauces to standalone, I had a feeling I could get a lot of bang for my buck.
- Beans — My husband and I love beans. We sometimes serve them as-is or add them into countless dishes.
- Crusty Bread — There’s nothing like crusty bread in a sandwich recipe or on the side of a salad dish.
- Chicken — I’m a fan of protein. I had chicken sausage but then opted for a large and less expensive container of protein that came in the form of chicken tenderloins.
- Tri-Color Quinoa — This item is gluten-free, high in protein, and one of the few plant foods that contain all nine essential amino acids (source). I knew that I could stretch this ingredient and use it in a variety of ways.
I must admit two things:
- I did have the help of salt and pepper from my pantry. Since most likely everyone has salt and pepper, I didn’t include this in my $20 budget.
- If you really want to make these recipes pop with flavor, be sure to add a bottle of Harris Teeter Organics salad dressing to your grocery cart. You can marinate the chicken with the dressing, toss your salad with the dressing, and/or drizzle the dressing over the sandwich. But, the avocado sauce that I made (to stay under $20) was pretty tasty.
[DAY 1] BREAKFAST
Simply place two slices of bread in the toaster until lightly toasted. Slice an avocado and place the slides on top of the toasted bread. Feel free to sprinkle arugula and/or black beans on top of the avocado slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
[DAY 1] LUNCH
Chicken and Arugula Sandwich with Avocado Sauce
Season a few pieces of the chicken tenderloin with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken until fully cooked. Make the avocado sauce by adding a few slices of an avocado into a blender. Add water into the blender and blend until desired consistency. Season the avocado sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Build a sandwich by putting a few slices of avocado and chicken on one piece of bread, add a few leaves of arugula, spread the avocado sauce on the other piece of crusty bread, and put the avocado bread on top of the layers.
[DAY 1] DINNER
Quinoa Bowl with Chicken and Beans
Make the quinoa according to the directions. Season a few pieces of the chicken tenderloin with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken until fully cooked. Pour the quinoa into a bowl. Add the chicken, beans, and sliced avocado into sections in the bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
[DAY 2] BREAKFAST
If you can’t tell, I’m a huge fan of avocado toast. I could eat it every morning. Simply place two slices of bread in the toaster until lightly toasted. Slice an avocado and place the slides on top of the toasted bread. Top with arugula and/or black beans on top of the avocado slices. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
[DAY 2] LUNCH
Arugula Salad with Grilled Chicken
Make avocado sauce by adding a few slices of an avocado into a blender. Add water into the blender and blend until desired consistency. Season the avocado sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Season a few pieces of the chicken tenderloin with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken until fully cooked. Build a salad by putting the arugula in a bowl. Toss the arugula with the avocado sauce and top with avocado, beans, and chicken.
[DAY 2] DINNER
Grilled Chicken Over a Bed of Arugula and Quinoa
Make avocado sauce by adding a few slices of an avocado into a blender. Add water into the blender and blend until desired consistency. Season the avocado sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Toss together the avocado sauce and arugula. Season a few pieces of the chicken tenderloin with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken until fully cooked. Cook the quinoa according to the directions and add a few black beans. Season with salt and pepper. Place the quinoa, grilled chicken, and salad on the dish.
What’s your favorite meal planning tip for a healthy lifestyle?